Background: Geosocial networking apps have made sexual partner-seeking easier for men who have sex with men, raising both challenges and opportunities for human immunodeficiency virus and sexually transmitted infection prevention and research. Most studies on men who have sex with men geosocial networking app use have been conducted in large urban areas, despite research indicating similar patterns of online- and app-based sex-seeking among men who have sex with men in rural and midsize cities.
Objective: The goal of our research was to examine the spatial distribution of geosocial networking app usage and characterize areas with increasing numbers of partner-seeking men who have sex with men in a midsize city in the South.
Methods: Data collection points (n=62) were spaced in 2-mile increments along 9 routes (112 miles) covering the county encompassing the city. At each point, staff logged into 3 different geosocial networking apps to record the number of geosocial networking app users within a 1-mile radius. Data were collected separately during weekday daytime (9:00 AM to 4:00 PM) and weekend nighttime (8:00 PM to 12:00 AM) hours. Empirical Bayesian kriging was used to create a raster estimating the number of app users throughout the county. Raster values were summarized for each of the county's 208 Census block groups and used as the outcome measure (ie, geosocial networking app usage). Negative binomial regression and Wilcoxon signed rank sum tests were used to examine Census block group variables (eg, median income, median age) associated with geosocial networking app usage and temporal differences in app usage, respectively.
Results: The number of geosocial networking app users within a 1-mile radius of the data collection points ranged from 0 to 36 during weekday daytime hours and 0 to 39 during weekend nighttime hours. In adjusted analyses, Census block group median income and percent Hispanic ethnicity were negatively associated with geosocial networking app usage for all 3 geosocial networking apps during weekday daytime and weekend nighttime hours. Population density and the presence of businesses were positively associated with geosocial networking app usage for all 3 geosocial networking apps during both times.
Conclusions: In this midsize city, geosocial networking app usage was highest in areas that were more population-dense, were lower income, and had more businesses. This research is an example of how geosocial networking apps' geospatial capabilities can be used to better understand patterns of virtual partner-seeking among men who have sex with men.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
This research was supported by a University of Kentucky Center for Clinical and Translational Science Pilot Grant (NIH NCRR UL1TR000117) and a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH NIDA R03 DA039740).
Algarin, Angel B.; Ward, Patrick J.; Christian, W. Jay; Rudolph, Abby E.; Holloway, Ian W.; and Young, April M., "Spatial Distribution of Partner-Seeking Men Who Have Sex With Men Using Geosocial Networking Apps: Epidemiologic Study" (2018). Epidemiology Faculty Publications. 28.